Trying Hard Not to Play Nice: Come Back Home by Yun Young-su

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.13 Autumn 2011
  • byPark Hyekyung
Come Back Home

Even as Yun Young-su has been faithful to the principles of realism, she has crafted a world of her own with fine, stylish sentences, and a delicate, controlled sense of balance. What is strikingly characteristic of her novels is that even though the writer hovers freely over the characters’ consciousness and their interior and exterior psychology, she does not try to exercise moral control over them. Yun uses restraint and maintains observational distance from the characters; instead of asking readers to side with particular characters or to identify with their perspectives, she offers us a penetrating view of their psychology and actions, and perhaps the overall meaning of the situation in which they are placed. Because of this, when reading Yun’s novels, readers come to observe the characters rather than approve of their lives.

Come Back Home features so-called bad people who want to be nice and so-called nice people who don’t want to be so nice. Through this character composition, Yun depicts our society’s double standard in a very entertaining fashion. “Nice,” the word used to praise someone’s virtue, gradually brings ridicule to that person, or causes trouble. Also, in her novels, selfish desire enlists the aid of good intentions, perverting goodwill itself into a means of self-preservation. By portraying a world of hypocrisy in which people’s good intentions are in collusion with vulgar desire, she captures the way in which the moral standard of good and evil becomes tightly enmeshed with the social mechanism known as the food chain, in which the strong dominate the weak. However, the fact that the writer coolly sees through human moral falsehood does not ultimately mean she has a cold eye. In fact, from time to time she is even humorous. This is because despite the fact that society endows people with every worldly, selfish desire, Yun never abandons her belief that humans are fundamentally possessed of good intentions.